Japanese PM arrives in India Sunday, no nuke deal in sight


New Delhi: Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama arrives in India Sunday for the annual bilateral summit that will have trade and defence as the main items on the table. However, a civil nuclear agreement is still not likely to be reached this time.

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Sixty-two-year-old Hatoyama will arrive in Mumbai, accompanied by his wife Miyuki. This would be the Japanese premier’s first “stand alone” foreign trip since being elected as prime minister in September this year.

The bilateral summits were started in 2006 after both countries “elevated” their relationship to a strategic partnership.

External affairs ministry’s official spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said both leaders “would review progress and give political direction to accelerate progress in whichever areas are required”.

Incidentally, Hatoyama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have already met twice on the sidelines of the Pittsburgh G-20 meet and the East Asia summit in Hua Hin.

After arrival, Hatoyama will pay his tributes to the victims of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack and sign the condolence book in Hotel Trident.

On Monday, he will meet eminent Indian businessmen and corporate leaders, including Tata group chairman Ratan Tata, after which he will leave for Delhi.

The Indian prime minister will host a small private dinner for Hatoyama at his residence Monday evening. The formal talks will be held Tuesday.

India and Japan have already held 12 rounds of negotiations to agree on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, with the last one held this September-October, but there area still issues to be ironed out, especially related to the services sector.

Officials said that while both countries have been moving closer in both trade and defence ties in recent years, the visit would be a good barometer for India to learn about the bigger strategic vision of the new Democratic Party government in Japan.

“There has been steady growth in trade,” Prakash said, noting that as per Japanese statistics, bilateral trade volume stood at $12 billion in 2008-2009.

“We already have a trade target of $20 billion by 2010. Japan is also the sixth largest investor in India…in the last 8-10 years, the actual investment has exceeded $2.5 billion,” he said.

India is also the largest recipient of Overseas Development Assistance from Japan that stood at $2.5 billion in 2008-09.

Japan is also helping in a Greenfield project to start an Indian Institute of Technology in Hyderabad.

It has also assisted in major development projects, like the Dedicated Freight Corridor linking Mumbai to Delhi and the eastern corridor linking West Bengal to Punjab, as well as an industrial corridor along the Delhi-Mumbai freight corridor.

Besides, India and Japan have been intensifying defence cooperation, participating in trilateral military exercises. Officials indicated that there is likely to be discussions on further increasing exchanges in this area.

On civil nuclear cooperation, there still seems to a distance between the two countries.

“We are appreciative of Japan’s support at International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group which made it possible to engage in civil nuclear commerce with all countries,” said Prakash.

He added that both nations agreed that nuclear power was a “safe, sustainable and renewable source of energy”.

“We have exchanged view on our respective nuclear energy policies,” he said, adding that energy security would also be a topic of discussion between the two leaders Tuesday.